The Other Latin Music

“What do you think of the El Niño phenomenon?”

“I think it’s a blip.  Basically I think Latin music is on the way out”

Bridget Jones

Oh Bridget, how wrong you were.  Latin Music has definitely moved on from Asereje’s Las Ketchup. Legendary Daddy Yankee continues to bring Reggaeton to The Lizard*, the Gotan project continues to breathe new life into Tango and the classic that is Shakira is here to stay (I hope). 

But, there’s more than that… imagine the love child of a heady mix of rock, hip-hop, Andean music, Salsa, El Son, Reggae, Ska, and Afro-Latin music. That love child exists. Cumbia is the future. Specifically, Cumbia Rock Chilena aka. La Nueva Cumbia Chilena.

Cumbia as a style was conceived when traditional Colombian music met African music, then teamed up with Salsa. It rose in popularity with variations like Cumbia Villera in Argentina (which adopted a class-war edge), Cumbia Chicha in Peru and Cumbia Chilena (Romantic and Rock)… complicated, I know. Chilean Cumbia had spell of success in the late 90s and then faded.  Luckily it’s re-emerged in two forms: either Romantic or Rock. 

Chilean Romantic Cumbia, like Americo, whose ubiquitous “Te vas” (you’re leaving) is a despedida (goodbye party) standard among exchange students. Very commercialised, it ticks all the Latin pop cliché boxes you can think of.

Cumbia Rock, on the other hand, has been reborn for left-leaning, student-y types of any class. If Latin America had hipsters, they’d be Cumbia fans. If you’re of a sensitive capitalist disposition though, be warned (if you understand the lyrics, that is).

It’s also amazing performed live, ideally in a huge, slightly dilapidated warehouse in a downtown South American city, in front of a tightly-packed crowd, which somehow magically still allows for some sneaky Salsa-y steps.

Why should you listen to it? This is where the future lies. Dance, sing, and drink, whatever, it all works. When I say dancing, I don’t mean awkward Union Venue 1 shuffling-in-a-circle, or grinding in the Lizard. It’s sexy, not sordid. Think Salsa, but faster, hotter and just, well, better. 

The top three Cumbia bands to know about:

Juana Fe 

Chico Trujillo 

Banda Conmoción 

*If someone could let Tranny DJ know that he does have other songs aside from Gasolina, it would be appreciated.


Images courtesy of Martin DiezVirginia Primo and Mauricio Olaya. Compiled by Lucy Thomas.